The deadly COVID-19 incarcerated us into our homes. Empty streets became home for abandoned pets and strays. With shops and restaurants shuttered due to lockdown, the canines’ main source of sustenance i.e. garbage scraps was gone. Amid the world's strictest lockdown, while some families abandoned their pets for the fear of getting infected by the virus, other people gave food and veterinary care to stray animals in and around their locality.
In India, stray dogs and cats have coexisted with humans since the Vedic ages. They have been residing in some localities even before humans. Therefore, the localities we live in belong to them, as much as to us. Many people look at them as a menace and threat. Some common beliefs that stray dogs are dirty, unkempt, and cannot be trusted make people wary of them. Just a few hapless events of dog bites are enough to turn the people against stray dogs.
Even if strays are untrained and homeless, they can interpret our body language. They are often very expressive and social animals. But every day is a battle for them, scavenging for scraps of food and shelter. It is their survival skills that make them strong and live long. They also depend on humans around them to sustain themselves. We love animals therefore we do not want to see them going hungry. Hence, it is important to know the basic dos and don'ts before Feeding Stray Animals.
Boiled and healthy foodSimple, but healthy food like rice, potatoes, and eggs. Soft-boiled rice mixed with small portions of boiled potatoes and a little bit of ghee is a simple meal perfect for stray dogs. You can add in boiled fish (without bones) if you are feeding a stray cat.
Build trust by showing careYou know nothing about the animals' past. Do not try to be physically too close to them, you might freak them out. It takes time for them to realize that some humans are caring and are showering their love on them. They have hardly seen love and care; all they have come across is human cruelty, hatred, and torture, hence their defensive and harsh attitude towards humans. You can get them vaccinated in your nearby vets and also get checked out for parasites, diseases, injuries, and, in case of a female, pregnancy.
Choose the same spot to feed them every dayThis builds a sense of discipline in the animals, and they begin to form a routine. This way they know where they’ll be getting food every day. If you have pets at home, ensure that you choose a spot a little farther away from your house to avoid fights between the strays and your pets. Avoid feeding in crowded areas where children play or where old people come for walks. Make sure the feeding spot you choose is clean and hygienic.
Carry a bowl full of waterYou can easily find any useless plastic container in your house, fill it with water and place it outside your house or building so that the cats and dogs can also have some water. You can also carry it with you when you go out to feed them. This will save them the trouble of hunting for water after they have had their food.
Avoid giving them ice-cold or hot water. Also, make sure you clean and maintain the water bowl, to avoid moss or mosquitoes due to dirty bowls and stagnant water.
Be consistent about feeding the straysWhen you quit feeding them suddenly, they will not know where to hunt for food, especially younger puppies and kittens become clueless because they were dependent on you all this while. Breaking the habit could be disastrous since they would continue to wait for you despite your absence. Also, make sure you are consistent with time and do not overfeed them because they will depend too much on you and lose their survival instincts. It also makes them an easy target for people who would harm animals. Therefore, if you don't plan to be consistent, don't start feeding them at all.
Oily or masala-filled foodToo much oil or masala can be harmful to animals. We use a lot of oil and masala to cook food. Our bodies and digestive systems work differently. Humans have a very high tolerance for spices and oil, but the case is different with animals. Also, fast food may contain onion and garlic mixtures, which when taken by dogs can cause stomach irritation and, in severe situations, red blood cell destruction. Therefore, it is not safe to feed our leftovers or fast food to strays.
Avoid giving SweetsArtificial sweeteners are present in candies, biscuits, and chewing gums. Dogs have lower immunity than humans. Sweets like chocolate have theobromine, which dogs process much more slowly than humans and it leads to the formation of toxins in their bodies. It can escalate the blood pressure in the bodies of our canine friends, which could cause failure in the functioning of various vital organs and the nervous system. Also, caffeine has qualities comparable to those found in chocolate, hence it is unsafe for stray animals.
Be careful while feeding dairy products.Some animals cannot digest the fat associated with dairy products, which makes them lactose intolerant. Avoid feeding milk products like cheese or curd as it could lead to worms in their stomachs, and intestinal distress like gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Don't feed them foods they are allergic to.Learn about their dietary needs. Stray animals are likely to be allergic to food such as dry fruits, fish, etc. One of the reasons to not feed fish is bones. They obviously will not be able to remove the sharp bones while eating and might choke on them. Same with the chicken. Note- Cuts not ordinarily consumed by humans, such as chicken feet, goat lungs, and other fish parts, are thrown away like garbage by your local butcher. You can get those throwaway meat parts at a much cheaper rate and feed them to older cats and dogs. Ensure you cook it properly and do not feed it to younger animals as they will still be teething and will not have a fully developed digestive system.
Do not feed two packs of animals at the same placeDogs mark their territories. They do not like when other dogs enter their area. Hence, if you’re going on a feeding drive, make sure you choose a location that is confined to one particular stray dog pack. Feeding dogs from different areas at the same place might lead to fights between the packs, and they can get violent for food. Same with the cats.
Do not throw food from a moving vehicleFeed the animals out of traffic areas. This way, they also remain out of sight and away from moving vehicles and people who do not like the presence of stray animals. Make sure you get down from the vehicle and feed them properly because otherwise, they will start chasing other vehicles, too, and put their lives at risk. Also do not whistle for them to come to you for food. When they hear the whistle, they know it’s time for food and rush across the road. As a result, there are more accidents and deaths.
Remember, as living beings, they also feel pain. They need food and water to nourish and sustain themselves. They need shelter to protect themselves from heat, cold, and rain. Article 21 of the Constitution of India protects all forms of life, including animal life. Every citizen must ensure that animals around us are healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, and in a safe environment. Every animal has a right to lead a life with intrinsic worth, dignity, and security. Do not ignore these innocent creatures, all they need is kindness. Your ignorance makes them victims of starvation, disease, and human cruelty. Helping our furry friends is important, but helping them in the correct manner is more important.